Now or never?
I don’t know about you, but I have a tendency to just want to get on and do stuff. My default methodology is “Don’t think, just do”. As a result I’m pretty good at getting shit done.
However, I’ve learned over time that this is not the best way to achieve my goals and objectives.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that planning ahead can be a useful tool in business and in life. My own personal experience is that planning ahead is your most powerful tool.
Let me say that again. I don’t think it’s just a good idea that you might want to try, I believe it’s your most powerful tool. If you only plan occasionally, or mostly not at all, then what I’m about to cover is going to be hugely valuable.
The sporting crossover
In American Football, coaches and quarterbacks call plays for every situation they find themselves in on the field, and the team execute them. It all seems very well ordered, and it works.
It was Bill Walsh, the legendary coach of the San Francisco 49’ers, that started ‘scripting’ ahead of the game. He decided that he would work out the first four plays of the game. That way his team would be half a step ahead of the opposition.
It worked so well that he started ‘scripting’ plays for other situations. For example, if they were defending inside their own 20-yard line. Or of they were attacking in the opposition’s half. This freed him up from having to come up with solutions on the fly, while the game was underway and emotions were high. He could do his thinking away from the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the game, and decide on the best approach in any given situation. In other words, planning ahead.
You might be thinking “So what?”, every American football team does this. Yes they do…now. But they didn’t do it before Bill Walsh.
Rugby League and Rugby Union have adopted a lot of the ‘scripting’ ideas that Walsh began in American Football.
Scripting for success
I thought this was such a good idea that I tried it myself. I started ‘scripting’ my consulting meetings with my clients. Basically, I decided on the first four ‘plays’ I would use in my consulting work with each specific client. In effect I simply decided on the first four questions and areas of discussion for that client. The result? An amazing improvement in the quality of the meetings I was having.
You have probably used ‘scripting’ yourself in a range of areas in your business without calling it that. For example:
If you have a set approach to the screening questions you ask a new client when they call your firm enquiring about your services, that’s scripting.
If you have a list of interesting questions and a rough order in which you’ll start asking the first three or four questions, I’d call that scripting too.
6 planning plusses
Why does any of this matter? I can feel some of you wanting to stop reading here and “just get on with something productive”.
The benefits of planning
Planning ahead, in whatever form we can introduce it into your business, provides some serious payback. It comes in a few forms:
1. Time Most of us crazy do’ers think we don’t have time to plan. The truth is that if you’re too busy to plan, you just have to stop and make time. Planning a project, an activity, a year, a quarter, a week, or even one client meeting buys you time. You’re not going to find it any other way.
2. Effectiveness Planning ahead not only creates some time and space, it also makes you more effective in using what time you have.
One of my clients is severely time constrained due to some personal issues. He can only work about 24 hours per week. For a good six months he was stuck in ‘doing mode’, and he was getting nowhere. He then switched to planning each day with his right-hand person. This took half an hour out of an already time constrained day in his mind, which was why he had resisted in the past.
The results have been stunning.
Now he’s laser-focused on the things that make most of the difference, and his performance is back to its former levels. Even with greatly reduced hours.
3. Excellence If you believe in doing things well, and most people I know want to do their job well, planning ahead makes a world of difference to the outputs you produce.
As an example, I used to write this blog on a Monday and publish it on Wednesday of the same week. At Debbie’s insistence, we started planning our content three months ahead, using an Editorial Calendar; basically just deciding in advance what I’d write about.
A few things happened.
a.) I started clearing Monday as my writing day and realised I could write two blogs on that day. So each week I actually started getting ahead.
b.) This helped enormously in some months where I had a lot of face-to-face work lined up and couldn’t always write. I had a buffer that I could fall back on in these busy periods. In fact we now plan when the face-to-face work occurs too.
The blog you’re reading now was written on Monday 13th February. Sorry to give the game away, but after two years of working at it, this is how far ahead we are with our content. And it’s all happened because of good planning.
c.) The time and space I have to write has increased, which keeps it as an enjoyable activity for me. Whenever I try to jam a couple of blogs in between other work, I hate my life and it often doesn’t get done.
d.) The quality of the blog has gone up and people have noticed. That’s good for you as a reader and also for our business.
4. Confidence When you are planned ahead and meeting regularly to discuss progress (another essential planning-ahead element), it gives you real confidence in what you are doing.
I’ve organised workshops at the last minute and I’ve organised them months in advance. I know which ones were more enjoyable (the ones we planned well in advance). They were fun to create and market, and also to deliver because we were ahead of the curve for each step of the process. When you’re constantly under the cosh, it’s hard to feel confident in what you’ll eventually deliver.
The same applies to you in your individual work with clients, your marketing, and a range of other business activities.
5. Reduced Stress Planning ahead reduces the pain and stress of whatever you’re doing. The better we plan at FP Advance the more fun we have and the better our business performs too.
The same goes for the clients I’m working with. As they slowly get themselves sorted out, the fun factor comes back and they look forward to getting things done.
6. Improved Performance Planning ahead improves business performance. It allows you to deliver high-quality work without the mistakes that come from a team under pressure. Clients notice, and you become more referable too.
How to master planning ahead
How do you start planning ahead? Try these areas for starters:
Create an effective business plan – your vision for 3 years and 10 years, along with a 12-month operational plan for this year
Ensure you have a 90-day plan – plan for the upcoming quarter
Plan your week – Do this Sunday night, Monday morning, or even better last thing Friday
Plan your day – Do this first thing in the morning or the night before
Plan your new client meetings
Plan your review meetings with existing clients
Plan with your team – Hold effective weekly meetings with your leadership team
Planning ahead can help you improve and achieve the results you’re trying to attain.
Basically, planning ahead is how you action small business guru Michael Gerber’s statement that you should be “working on your business, rather than in your business”.
Give it a try and let me know how you go.